Digital Project Life : Some Resources and Thoughts for Getting Started in 2013

I will make no secret of it–I am definitely a cheerleader for the digital version of Project Life. In my opinion it’s the only reason I was able to keep up weekly AND complete an entire year on my first try. (I often begin projects with good intentions, oh they are such GOOD intentions, but time and commitments often get in my way..and…well…I end up with a lot of good intentioned unfinished projects all over the place!) I just know that if I would have bought a traditional kit last January I would have made it to about January 21st…and then threw in the towel!

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE cute paper products. LOVE them. I am sure if I ever went to a CHA event I would probably have heart palpitations and end up spending a lot of money on things that I was sure I was going to use. But I am trying to be more realistic with myself as I get older and I know that for my life now, with two kids under five, there is no way I could keep up with printing photos weekly. Not only that, I find it hard to believe I could keep the embellishments out of the hands (and mouth) of my one year old. For those of you that can do it–you have my admiration!

I have received quite a few emails since the Creative Team announcement last week asking how to get started with digital Project Life, or if I had any tips or tricks to share. A lot of you are like me, smack dab in a very busy point of life, and feel that this method may be the only way to keep up. (Or you have tried the traditional way only to fall behind and now want to see if it would be easier to keep up if done digitally.) I will be the first to tell you, I am no expert, and I probably do a lot of things “the hard way” because I don’t know any better. I thought I would pull together some resources for you in the event you want to dip your toe into the digital waters….

First up–some basic tutorials I have collected from around the internet that I am sure can help you get started:

  • Using the Digital Project Life Templates This is a great introduction on getting started from Jessica Sprague. (Project Life products used to be found at her website, which she references in the video, but can now be found at AC Digitals.) In this video she covers how to unzip the files, open them up, all about what the layers that are within the template, what clipping masks are…really everything you would need to know to make a basic 12×12 page.  (This would be the digital equivalent of placing photos and cards in the pockets and calling it done.) Note that she only demonstrates “clipping” down the cards from a kit, but photos work the same way. (You would just open the photo you want to use in photoshop elements, and drag it over to the template just like she does the cards.) I have found that it works best to have the photos already sized, edited, and cropped before bringing them in–keeps the workflow that much more efficient.
  • Adding Text To a Journaling Card
  • Cathy Zielske’s Vimeo Channel There is so much in here I can’t even begin to list it–but these are all awesome tutorials and will totally help you with your Project Life albums. I am in the middle of watching one right now and learned something new already!
  • How to Add and Use Hand-Drawn Brushes on Photos This is a great tutorial from Ali Edwards that teaches the technique I use in almost every single Project Life layout I create.
  • How to Add Text To Photos A great video from Cathy Zielske that highlights another technique I use weekly.

Once you have watched all of these videos you really will be ready for a digital 2013 if you want to go that route, being a digital project lifer really is that simple. And here is the thing….you can create 12×12 digital layouts like these for some weeks, and if you have time, the traditional way on others. I am a firm believer in Project Life being what works for you, and any skills and tricks you can learn along the way to keep the project alive for you all year long is all good. One of the things that really struck me the most this past year when creating layouts week after week was not the simplicity (although that is a big part of it) of it all–but the empowerment. Creating all of this stuff made me feel great. In this crazy, crazy, fast world…where it’s so hard to get caught up in the mess of self-doubt and guilt about how good of a mother/baker/homemaker I am…Project Life was the window I could look through and view just how much we did do together as a family. I could look back and see the we do have fun together, and our weeks aren’t as boring as I sometimes think they are. I may not have made as many batches of homemade cookies as I would have liked this past year, and I never did figure out how to make those cute lunches that look like animal scenes (pinterest really does drive me nuts sometimes), but I made an awesome album, that my family loves to look at, that’s all about US.

And that’s really all it’s about.

I touched on my process in my thoughts mid-year post this past summer, and all of it still rings true. I am forever grabbing time here and there to work on my pages, and I don’t think that will ever really change. I upgraded to an iphone 5 a few weeks ago specifically for the camera. (It really is that much better!) I do tend to grab my DSLR a lot more than I used to, but my phone is still my go-to piece of equipment. You don’t need anything fancy to be a good memory keeper!

The only thing that I will be changing up this coming year is how I put it all together. I can’t resist the allure of the insert and all of the extra sizes, so I will be printing through Persnickety Prints my 12×12 layouts and then putting them into a binder, versus uploading them to a Shutterfly photobook. I have decided I am going to use the Seafoam Kit as my main core kit but I am sure I will once again be using different kits for different weeks as the mood strikes me. There is too much cute stuff out there in the digi world not to!

I hope this post has helped you decide if digital could work for you in some way. If you have any additional questions, feel free to send them along!

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  • Teresa Victor - Heather, what a fabulous post for would-be digi-gals! I love it and could have written it word-for-word too (right down to the oodles of good intentions and buying an iphone 5 for the camera). Congratulations on making the PL 2013 team! Looking forward to getting to know you better. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Karen - Heather thank you for sharing your thinking and resources
    I was digi almost done for 2012 and i am doing hands on for 2013
    U just might have me rethinking my choice 😉ReplyCancel

  • Debbie - Thanks Heather for this info and encouragement. I’m a photographer too and in a sense, I already do digital when it comes to putting books and storyboards together for clients…. But I have yet to completely give myself over to the digital world in my personal life. It’s crazy. I love paper, but I hate handwriting whole journal cards… The downside to digital for me is that I become super indecisive and I spend way too much time messing with it. I’m trying to commit myself to the idea that if I’m going to go digital then I have to pick a few extra elements that will go along with my Seafoam and stick with just that. Maybe re-color, but limit myself. And I apologize because now I’m just thinking out loud. Lol. I am so glad I found you and I look forward to seeing what you do this year!ReplyCancel

    • admin - I so know what you mean. If you look at my old posts, it wasn’t until week eight last year that I let myself do anything but the Clementine Kit for fear of the same thing. But honestly? It gets easier with time. (And if you are indecisive–which I totally am–digital is the way to go. At least you can move digi stuff around…I couldn’t do that with paper–which explains why I never got any paper layouts done!) I hope you give it a whirl. It’s addicted and oh so much fun. And unbelievable how fast the family gets on board. I can’t wait until they see the Shutterfly book in person!ReplyCancel

  • Honey, It’s Digital | Mode Rosette - […] And why digital? It’s so easy to complete an entire spread without worrying about cropping and uploading, ordering and waiting. The whole thing comes together at nap time, no scrambling necessary to hide the choking hazards before setting the baby loose. […]ReplyCancel

  • Project Life Inspiration: Over 100 Sites - […] Getting Started with Digital Project Life from Heather Johnson […]ReplyCancel

  • bernadette - Thank you so much for posting this! I stumbled onto your site via Google, and it is so nice to find a page that lists some good resources for getting started. I just started Project Life and am using the paper cards and plastic pockets, but I’m intrigued by the idea of doing it digitally. I have all the software available to me but not the know how, so this post is really useful!

    I also love the Project Life pages that you’ve posted on your website. I really like the look and style of your PL pages. I hope that someday I can become as adept and come out with pages as nice as yours!ReplyCancel

    • Heather - Thank you so much Bernadette! I wish you luck on getting started digitally–it’s so addicting and fun!!! These videos will be an enormous help and really get you started.ReplyCancel

  • Chantel - I just had a quick question… I want to print my layouts with Persnickety Prints this year, and I was wondering how many binders you needed for a year of Project Life. Thanks! I love your website!!!ReplyCancel

    • Heather - Hi Chantel–Last year I needed two binders, but I did have a lot of inserts. I am thinking that if you didn’t do any inserts it might fit into one binder but I am not sure. Even with a photobook (which I did in 2012) it needed two books. Although MUCH smaller in size!! I haven’t taken nearly as many photos this year so far so I am debating whether or not to do a photobook this year or a binder. Still haven’t decided!!ReplyCancel

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